Although my fascination for cricket is more than for any other sport, I watched this year’s recently concluded Football World Cup in South Africa in my casual pastime, and it was surely not for any of the big names attached to it.
The reason why I so religiously followed this year’s big Football World Cup matches was to see if the predictions of the now world famous eight-legged aquatic creature known as Paul – The Octopus – would come true or not.
Undoubtedly, Paul kept millions of soccer fans hooked onto their TV sets to see his predictions come true, live during the event.
Spain may have clinched the World Cup trophy, Thomas Muller and Diego Forlan may have received the Golden Boot and the Player of the Tournament titles respectively, but no one would deny that Paul - the Predictor - was the real winner of this mega sporting event. Never in the history of any sport played across the globe was any animal loved or hated so much as Paul.
The buzz which he generated through his predictions, which were based purely on his dining habit than science, was much bigger than any other development during the month-long event.
For those who don’t know much about this eight-legged predator, which irked many and shattered dreams of getting the world cup glory for the losers, Paul predicted winners by choosing a mussel from one of two boxes, each of which featured the flag of the two competing football teams.
Probably based on his own psyche, whichever box Paul ate the mussel from was declared to be the winner, according to him. And much to the pride of his handlers at his residence at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen town of Germany, he finished World Cup 2010 in his own style with a perfect eight correct predictions in a row.
Before the start of the World Cup, nobody ever knew that this beautiful creature would get so much attention that every big or small media house from all corners of the world would want use him to maximise TRPs and viewership.
We all believed in the prescience of Paul, assuming that he knew more about the game of football than us. The degree of this aquatic creature’s popularity surpassed the popularity of some of the biggest names of this sport Messi, Rooney, Ronaldo or Kaka.
It would be no wonder that the mention of Football World Cup 2010 would be incomplete without this eight-legged beauty, and of course the Paraguayan model Larissa Riquelme, who gave a nude tribute to the national soccer team.
However, the sad part of the whole story is that this great predictor from the animal kingdom has taken a voluntary retirement after the playful conclusion of the WC. In what could be termed as a clever move, the officials of the Sea Life Aquarium, who want to avoid any embarrassment if his predictions fell flat in future, have announced the Paul’s retirement. He won’t give any more oracle predictions – either in football, or in politics, lifestyle or economy.
From now onwards, Paul would do what he ought to be doing - Paul will entertain guests, children visiting his residence. Paul’s sudden retirement has shattered hopes of big betting houses and disappointed many hoping to see some more accurate predictions in other spheres of life.
God knows, how many big politicians, sport stars, business Czars, film celebrities had been harbouring ambition to test their fortune through Paul. The smart handlers of Paul, who made millions by effectively marketing his ability to foretell things, have done an even better job by putting up a not for sale board for prospective buyers. It seems that Paul’s handlers want to play safe and want nothing to overshadow his 100% World Cup 2010 record.
Even as we debate whether Paul possessed extraordinary psychic powers or his predictions were just a series of co-incidences, there is no one denying that he added the same flavour to the sport which the cheer leaders have added to the shorter version of cricket.
Whatever one says, Paul certainly added even more excitement to the game of football by giving fans some options other than listening to the boring analysis of sports commentators. There were now discussions on things beyond free kicks, penalty shoot outs, extra time or match referee’s erring decisions.
Thank God that he retired well in time since the predictor made innumerable enemies, who bore the brunt of his accurate soothsaying. If not convinced, then ask any German, who till their side’s defeat revered Paul as much as The Pope, but now see him as a medieval sorcerer with a power to foresee doom.
It won’t come as a surprise if the news crazy people of India, where superstitions prevail even in some highly educated people, come with their own desi versions of Paul to cash-in on his huge popularity and make quick money by pretending to own his clones possessing the same uncanny ability.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)